Having children with disabilities can become very complicated when they enter into the teenager stage—the stage when children’s hormones are raging and they’re trying to spread their wings and fly alone! Tempers may flare. Rules may be broken, and stuff happens. It’s when this stuff happens that can be a challenge to our parenting skills. How do you handle it? What do you say? What do you do? Sometimes it seems as though it’s trial and error (sometimes it is), but if your tool box is full with wonderful resources and supports, these times can be smooth as melted butter.
I remember the learning curve very well. Drenda, my oldest daughter, loved to smack her lips, roll her eyes and slam that darn bedroom door. I would immediately state “Don’t slam MY door,” enter her room with authority and yes… I said, “Don’t roll your eyes and smack your lips at me. I’ll (enter your favorite warning here).” Drenda would look at me, still smacking her lips, rolling her eyes, challenging me. What are you going to do? What was I going to do? She did it so many times that I wouldn’t even open my mouth anymore. I would get mad. I’d shake my head and think, Here we go again.
Then I started to wonder, “What can I do? How do I stop the eyes from rolling, lips smacking and the door from slamming?” I could keep yelling, “Don’t slam my door!” I could keep going into the room, preaching to her about her behavior, or I could be proactive and settle the behavior before it got out of hand. You say, “What does that mean?”
Well, next time Drenda slams that door I’ll wait for her and me to calm down. Only then will I calmly enter her room. I’m the adult. I need to figure this out. She doesn’t have the skills to do it herself. So, I’m going to help both of us. This is not about me. It’s about Drenda and the behavior. Sometimes when people are upset they take things out on the people they love the most. I’m going to take that to heart and understand Drenda wants me to help her fix the problem.
If she’s is ready to talk, I’ll say, “Drenda, I’m sorry that you’re upset. Would you like to talk about it?” Stating that I’m sorry she’s upset is a true statement and hopefully it will open the door to communication between us.
If she is ready to talk, I’ll listen to every word she says about her current situation, how she feels about it and why she feels it was appropriate to act in the manner that she did. After she has concluded her story and has vented her frustration, then I’ll speak to her about each issue she brought to my attention to ensure I understand her thought process and issue. Professionals call this”processing.” I call it being able to express yourself and being able to be heard. Really heard.
Continuing with the “process.” It’s now my turn to speak about the issue, her frustration, how it made her feel, how it made others feel, choices, how she can solve it in the future, and the consequence if she doesn’t make the appropriate choices. I’m going to set the standard for her and me.
When we are still processing and both of us are calm, I explained to her what I’m going to call the “BAM.” The “BAM” makes me smile so I’m never going to be upset about the behavior that might invite the “BAM.”
Everything in the house was running like butter, melted butter. I bought some beautifully colored paper, and she and I crafted a visual chart with the standard posted to the back of her bedroom door. She can see it each time she closes the door as a reminder. I’m still waiting for her to slam that darn door. If you want to find out when she slams that door and what “BAM” is, check back for Part 2 of Here We Go…..Don’t Slam My Door!
Also be sure to check out our page on Behavior Problems in Children with Disabilities.